ADVENT / CHRISTMAS
When Joseph Came to Bethlehem
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. . . . Joseph her husband was a righteous man . . . . He did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him. . . . So Joseph also went up . . . to Bethlehem.
Matthew 1:18, 19a, 24b; Luke 2:4ab
In an earlier version of these Bible-based poetic meditations, Joseph was included in the section subtitled “Fathers.” If you believe (as I do) in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, perhaps you might be wondering why.
Perhaps you’re also wondering how Joseph connects with the over-all emphasis which MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS gives to the genealogy of Jesus. How could it be said that Joseph was counted among those earthly ancestors of our Lord and Saviour?
Because the Bible itself says so. In Matthew 13:55 Jesus is identified as “the carpenter’s son.” In Luke 3:23 we read that Jesus “was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph.” Mary herself, when she found twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple, referred to Joseph as “your father” (Luke 2:48).
Apparently the miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus were not widely known during his earthly lifetime. Mark and John never mention the virgin birth in their Gospels; neither does Paul in his letters, except perhaps in the veiled reference that Jesus was “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). Most people who knew Jesus in the flesh assumed that Joseph was his father.
You know and I know that Joseph was not the father of Jesus, . . . and Joseph himself knew it, too.
This fact points up the humility which must have been a major part of Joseph’s character. He was willing to obey God’s command even when it was hard and humiliating. He was willing to hold back from normal sexual relations with his lawful wife, in order to avoid any possible suspicion about the origin of the Holy Child being carried in Mary’s womb. When Joseph led Mary on that difficult trip to Bethlehem, he had not yet been able to enjoy any of the fleshly rewards of being a husband.
Some people call Joseph “the forgotten man of the Christmas story.” Certainly we seem to make a lot more of Mary and her Baby, of the angels, the shepherds, the Wise Men. Yet Joseph played a vital part in the nativity narrative. His important role is highlighted in the Bible-based poetic meditation that follows.
Joseph must have been a practical man. He worked with wood, not words. He knew hammers and saws, not high-flown concepts. This meditation, written in the style and rhythm of an old-fashioned ballad, emphasizes the practical steps Joseph must have taken in preparing the way for the birth of the blessed Babe in Bethlehem.
When Joseph came to Bethlehem,
the night lay damp and chill;
he found no room, no inn, no home
for Mary, worn and ill that night,
for Mary, worn and ill.
If Joseph were a carpenter,
no high-born man was he.
He pushed therefore the stable door,
the stable for to see that night,
the stable for to see.
There Joseph saw sweet-smelling straw
within the stable piled.
‘Twas found at last: a place to rest
for Joseph’s Mary mild that night,
for Joseph’s Mary mild.
So Joseph led the beasts aside;
he filled the crib with hay.
On straw for bed her weary head
did Joseph’s Mary lay that night,
did Joseph’s Mary lay.
Good watch he kept; he never slept;
he waited for the morn.
How great his joy to see the Boy
of his sweet Mary born that night,
of his sweet Mary born!
Thank you, Lord, for Joseph, and for all those others like him in the family of faith who perhaps never receive the honor that is properly due them. Amen.
Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas